Faculty Announcements

Ileana Cristea Receives Prestigious New Avant-Garde Award for Innovative HIV/AIDS Research

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, just announced the first three recipients of its new Avant-Garde Award. This award is intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug abusers. Award recipients will receive $500,000 per year for five years to support their research.

From the NIDA's press release: "Ileana Cristea, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., is a young investigator of exceptional talent and promise whose research creatively applies technology to address significant biological issues. She developed methodology that allows tracking of protein localization and elucidation of interacting partners. Dr. Cristea applied this technology first to study the virus-host interactions for Sindbis fever (caused by a mosquito-borne virus) and has extended this technology to the study of other virus host interactions, including human cytomegalovirus and HIV. Project: Proteomic tools to uncover the role of chromatin remodeling in HIV-1 infection The HIV virus contains relatively little genetic information. Therefore, it usurps many of the host’s cellular machinery for its own purposes. This study focuses on HIV’s ability to hijack key proteins involved in the regulation of gene expression. A strength of this proposal is its unique ability to perform a comprehensive screen of interactions between viral and host proteins."

NIDA’s HIV/AIDS Research Program supports an innovative and multidisciplinary HIV/AIDS research portfolio that addresses the role of drug use and its related behaviors in the evolving dynamics of HIV/AIDS epidemiology, natural history/pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention. The three awardees will undertake diverse approaches in their research on HIV — one scientist will investigate HIV’s ability to hijack key proteins involved in the regulation of host cell gene expression; another researcher proposes to develop agents that can effectively block the spread of the HIV virus within the body; and the third will evaluate the effectiveness of expanded access to highly active antiretroviral therapy in decreasing new cases of HIV infection among injection drug users.

The Avant-Garde Awards are modeled after the NIH Pioneer Awards, which are granted to scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering and possibly transformative approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. "It is our hope that by supporting investigators who look differently at the challenge of HIV/AIDS, we will discover new approaches to the prevention and treatment of this devastating disease," said NIH Director Elias Zerhouni.

"We are excited by the innovative approaches proposed by our award recipients," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, who announced the awards. "They are investigators who are willing to step into un-traveled scientific territory, and we want to support their vision."

For further information about the Avant-Garde Award, please visit the NIDA Avant-Garde Award Web site at Information about the FY09 Avant-Garde award will be posted on this site soon.

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